A New Approach To Self-hypnosis When All Else Fails
Deepening The Self-hypnotic State
How Does Self-hypnosis Work?
How To Arouse Yourself From The Self-hypnotic State
How To Attain Self-hypnosis
Is Hypnosis The Answer?
Practical Applications Of Self-hypnosis
Psychological Aids And Their Function
Techniques For Reaching The Somnambulistic State
The Nature Of Hypnosis
What About The Dangers Of Hypnosis?
What You Should Know About Becoming An Excellent Subject
What You Should Know About Self-hypnosis
What You Should Know About Becoming An Excellent Subject
Becoming an excellent subject follows the same general rules for
becoming proficient in any other endeavor. It depends upon your
motivation, persistence and willingness to devote time and study to the
subject. Let us agree that most individuals can learn to play a musical
instrument to some degree. This degree is usually sufficient for their
own needs. To become a virtuoso, however, it is necessary to study the
instrument and devote a great deal of energy and time to practice. The
same example could be given for most undertakings. Anyone can learn to
hit a golf ball, but being able to control the direction and distance
and become a skilled golfer is quite another matter.
If you have been successful in accomplishing the first five tests, you
can consider yourself a good hypnotic subject. Becoming an excellent
subject entails following the same procedure used in accomplishing the
first five tests. Some may proceed very easily into the somnambulistic
state, and others may have a difficult time reaching this deepest stage.
Understanding some of the psychology involved and assuming the right
psychological frame of mind for the attainment of the somnambulistic
state is more important than just working blindly in an attempt to get
the somnambulistic tests to work. Being irritable, disgusted and
despondent because of your inability to go further into hypnosis is not
the answer and will only lead to frustration and failure. The reader is
not to assume he will be a difficult subject. If you have come this far,
you'll be able to continue in the same manner. The topic under
discussion now is brought up to prepare readers for any contingency that
may arise. It's like having a life preserver on a boat. You hope you
never need it, but you should be prepared to use it in case of an
It is natural to assume that if you are willing and trying to go into
the lethargic, cataleptic or somnambulistic state, you will be able to
do so in a relatively short period of time. Unfortunately, this is by no
means the case. Many of the principles of learning and conditioning can
be applied to hypnosis, but with many subjects these laws do not seem
applicable. Let us assume you wanted to learn to become an excellent
typist. This is a reasonable goal and all that is necessary is to
continue practicing until you have reached the proficiency you set out
to achieve. This proficiency would, as a rule, follow application of the
laws of learning and conditioning.
This isn't always so in a subject's attempt to become somnambulistic.
When the subject progresses from one stage to another in a classical
manner, the theory works admirably, but what happens when a subject
cannot seem to progress any further? He has reached a plateau and is
unable to climb higher. He seems to have reached a psychological
impasse or stalemate. It is easy to say that the subject is thwarted by
a subconscious block and let it go at that. This, however, doesn't help
him in his dilemma. It's like telling the stranded motorist that the
reason his car has stalled is because the motor isn't running. The
following information will be helpful to those who haven't been able to
reach the first stages of hypnosis, as well as those who apparently can
go only so far. Actually, the same principles are involved.
If the subject doesn't respond or responds to a limited degree, there
evidently is a cause or reason for this poor response. In order to
continue this discussion, it will be necessary for us to agree that the
resistance can be either conscious or unconscious. If the subject
insists that he is trying to "let go," has nothing to hide, is not
afraid of hypnosis, understands what is involved and has strong
motivation, we can only assume that the resistance must be unconscious.
Usually, it will be necessary to work through this unconscious
resistance before the subject responds. If the subject is conditioning
himself, this will involve a great deal of introspection, and even then
it is an extremely difficult job. One doesn't usually have proper
insight into one's own emotional make-up. The end result is that one can
only rationalize about his behavior.
Let us explore some interesting aspects of hypnosis with a view toward
helping you if you are having difficulty responding the way you desire.
I have had the following paradoxical situation happen many times. A
subject calls my office, requesting to be conditioned for self-hypnosis.
He further requests that he be allowed to bring along a member of his
family or a friend for the hypnotic session. These individuals usually
ask if I object to this procedure. I interpreted this request as a sign
of distrust during my early career as a professional hypnotist. I was
affronted by the idea of the unspoken insinuation verbalized by this
request. Didn't they trust me? Between trying to defend myself and
assuring them that there was no need for another person being present,
since my secretary could observe the procedure, I usually "won" the
argument but lost the client. As I developed understanding into the
needs of these persons, I began to realize that the request was not
directed at my integrity, but was a safeguard for their ego.
Here is an interesting sidelight that has happened frequently in regard
to the foregoing situation. I would request the subject to sit near my
desk and tell the onlooker to sit in back and to the side of the
subject, away from the subject's view so as not to distract him. In this
situation, I invariably place the hypnodisc on a spinning, portable
phonograph turntable and turn it upright for the subject to look at. The
hypnodisc, which is made of stiff cardboard, looks like a 12-inch
phonograph record and has concentric heavy lines drawn on it. As it
spins, the subject feels he is being pulled toward the center. At the
same time, it causes his eyes to become very tired. I have included a
drawing of it on this page for those who are not familiar with this
hypnotic device. The revolving hypnodisc causes a physiological
reaction and must work with everyone. You feed back certain known
physiological responses for the successful attainment of hypnosis.
The onlooker has no choice but to look at the hypnodisc as well. As I
suggest to the subject that his eyes are becoming heavy and tired and
that soon he'll have an irresistible impulse to close them, the onlooker
is naturally hearing the same suggestion. Because this person feels
apart from the hypnotic situation, there can be no conscious resistance.
Since these defenses are not hampering the attainment of hypnosis, the
onlooker may readily fall under hypnosis. More than once, the onlooker
has confided to me that he was getting a better night's sleep, was
feeling wonderfully well or had derived other benefits since coming to
my office as an "observer." The exact situation happens when the stage
hypnotist is hypnotizing subjects on the stage. Many times a person in
the audience who had no intention of becoming hypnotized becomes
influenced in the same manner. Incidentally, these individuals make the
There are interesting theories as to why a subject responds or does not
respond to hypnosis. I think the reader would find some of these
theories interesting and perhaps gain some insight into his own hypnotic
behavior. These theories are based primarily on a psychoanalytical
approach to hypnosis.
The most prevalent theory is that the hypnotist represents either the
father image (paternal or fear hypnosis) or the mother image (maternal
or love hypnosis). The father usually represents an authoritarian
figure. The subject's identification can be on a conscious or
subconscious level. Let us suppose the subject has ambivalent feelings
toward his father. Because of this, he may not respond. Here is an
opportunity to frustrate the authoritative (father) figure. The only
trouble with this theory is that if there is an excellent relationship
between the father and subject, it doesn't necessarily mean that the
subject will respond easily. The stage hypnotist invariably uses a
strong, authoritative approach with a great deal of success, but this
approach generally does not work best in private practice.
I have found that for the majority of subjects the maternal approach
works best. Perhaps the process of hypnosis awakens early unconscious
memories of being put to sleep as a child. Some techniques that are used
in hypnosis are quite similar to this. The subject, who is lying down,
is told to close his eyes and is spoken to in a quiet, reassuring,
monotonous tone of voice. The hypnotist is seated near him. The
hypnotist even uses the same words that the subject has heard as a
child: "Sleep. Go to sleep. When you awaken, you'll feel wonderfully
well." In fact, I use some special music that I had recorded for
inducing hypnosis. The first musical selection is Brahms' "Lullaby."
Children's music boxes invariably contain this selection, and the melody
cannot help but activate a pleasant nostalgia. It is a memory associated
with love and tenderness. This brings us to the fact that hypnosis may
offer the subject a chance to escape from the reality of pressing
problems into a state of complete irresponsibility. In fact, one theory
of hypnosis equates the hypnotic state as a form of unconscious
regression and need for submission.
The male subject may have a strong, positive identification with his
mother rather than his father. It is part of the unresolved Oedipus
complex. He sees his mother as a kind, loving individual, always ready
to help. Even if the mother did something socially unacceptable, the
individual would defend her vehemently. The father who might do
something wrong would rarely be excused. Just the opposite is true with
the female subject. When asking the female child, "Whose girl are you?",
the answer is invariably, "Daddy's girl." When asking the male child,
"Whose boy are you?", the answer is invariably, "Momma's boy." We accept
this transference of identification as a normal process of growing up.
When it isn't normally resolved, it can account for severe personality
problems. One might assume, therefore, that a woman hypnotist could
better hypnotize a male subject, and a male hypnotist could better
hypnotize a female subject, but this is not true except for cases such
as we have just mentioned.
One school of thought feels that there is a strong submissive tendency
in all of us and hypnosis gratifies this wish. The individual's need for
dependence is also met. In this case, the hypnotist becomes omnipotent,
being able to alter feelings that ordinarily distress the individual.
Normally, adults, when confronted by a particularly upsetting
experience, might want to be held closely by an intimate friend or
member of the family. Don't we frequently put our arm around a friend in
grief trying to comfort him? The inner strength which is created by
hypnosis within the total personality structure of the subject lessens
dependency upon the hypnotist, much in the same fashion that we need the
doctor less as we start to recover from an illness. Self-hypnosis
further lessens dependency for no authoritarian figure is used.
The subject's attitude towards authority is important to know. It is
well-known that officers in the army are more difficult to hypnotize
than noncommissioned men. The enlisted man, by a process of
indoctrination and conditioning, is taught to obey and follow orders
without reasoning. The transference of authority to the hypnotist is
readily accomplished because of this conditioning process. The army
doctor, when treating patients psychologically, replaces his army jacket
with a regular white medical jacket to increase rapport.
One interesting theory is that the subject responds as he thinks the
hypnotist would like him to. This is termed "role playing." When asking
a subject under hypnosis his name, you usually get a very slow,
deliberate answer, as though the subject were in a trance. You tell him
that he can answer in a normal speaking voice and tempo and his further
replies are to be in the same manner as his waking state.
Another theory along these lines is that the subject acts as he believes
a hypnotized person would act. This, too, is role playing, but it does
not explain analgesia, such as when the dentist hypnotizes the patient
and proceeds to drill a tooth. No one (with the possible exception of a
highly neurotic psychic masochist) is going to endure excruciating pain
just to please the doctor.
One theory about hypnosis states that it allows the subject an
opportunity of identifying with the hypnotist, whom he sees as a
powerful figure. Through this identification, the subject is able to
gain inner strength. On the other hand, the subject might rebel against
the submissive nature of the hypnotic setting. This could easily create
anxiety which, in turn, could create hostility resulting in resistance
of various kinds. As a result of this, the subject might begin to
criticize the hypnotist, find fault with the way he (the subject) is
being handled, question the judgment of the hypnotist, or doubt the
effectiveness of the hypnotic procedure.
Many investigators assert that the "rapport," meaning the relationship
between the subject and hypnotist, is all important. This is true and
the relationship can and does have many ramifications. In psychotherapy,
the term "transference" is used to denote this relationship. The
relationship is further described as a good or bad transference. There
is also a countertransference which indicates the reaction of the
therapist to the patient. Naturally, in order for the subject to
respond, there must be good rapport.
I have tried to indicate that there are complexities that may arise in
the hypnotic setting. There are many conflicting theories as to why a
subject does or does not respond. There are no set rules to follow, and
one's intuition, experience and judgment help solve any problem that
Let me relate another frequent incident. I have had subjects come to me
after they were unable to be hypnotized by several other professional
hypnotists. They have complained that the hypnotists weren't "good
hypnotists" because they couldn't hypnotize them. After all, they ask,
hadn't they been willing subjects? My usual answer is that the fault, if
there is one, is not with the hypnotists and really not with the
subjects. It is a matter of exploring what has happened and then
deciding on a course of action to insure success.
I am firmly convinced that the subject responds when he is positively,
without equivocation, ready to do so. He keeps testing the response to
make sure he is in control. He fears a reduction in his voluntary level
of reality attachment and control. Unresponsiveness proves to him that
he has this control. As long as he does this, which is a natural
response, he never lets go sufficiently to attain hypnosis. Hypnosis,
as we know, is a very sensitive state. It requires complete faith and
trust in the hypnotist. If it is lacking, the subject never does
respond. The phenomenon of hypnosis is entirely subjective in nature,
and its success lies within the total personality structure of the
subject. If there is resistance to hypnosis itself or to deepening the
state, the subject by his own honest evaluation and verbalization of his
resistance can do much to become a better subject. Hypnosis must begin
with the acceptance by the subject of certain basic fundamentals that we
have already discussed rather than of the forcefulness of the hypnotist.
The deepening of the hypnotic state lies in the intensification of the
conditioned response mechanism once it has been initiated.
You should not expect to achieve immediate results although sometimes
this does happen. As you continue to work with perseverance,
intelligence and enthusiasm, you will definitely achieve the goals that
you have set for yourself. It is well to remember that you guide
yourself toward the somnambulistic state, depending upon your belief and
acceptance of those principles that have been outlined for you.
I have attempted to point out some of the salient points and theories to
keep in mind in your attempt to develop into an excellent hypnotic
subject. Some of these only pertain to the situations where the
hypnotist works with the subject. Many of the problems inherent in this
setting are not applicable to the situation where the subject is
hypnotizing himself. Both settings have their advantages and
disadvantages. As long as you proceed to follow the instructions given
you, you can feel assured that you will finally achieve self-hypnosis.
It should be emphasized that it is vital to adopt the right frame of
mind in your attempt to achieve self-hypnosis, particularly a deep
state. If you approach hypnosis with a "prove-it-to-me" attitude,
nothing is going to happen. Self-hypnosis requires practicing a set of
mental exercises or mental gymnastics. To acquire the ultimate from this
training requires systematic conditioning. The word "training" is used
quite extensively in hypnotic literature. The use of the word implies
that hypnosis can be attained by a training period. The literature
speaks frequently of a subject being trained to respond in a certain
way. Obviously, this means over a certain period of time. It also means
you train yourself to become a good hypnotic subject. It is a skill that
all can acquire.
There are four books dealing specifically with self-hypnosis that I
would recommend to you for further reading. They are: What is Hypnosis
by Andrew Salter, Hypnosis and Self-Hypnosis by Bernard Hollander,
M.D., Autogenic Training by Johannes H. Schultz, M.D., and
Self-Hypnosis--Its Theory, Technique and Application by Melvin
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